Jacob was pissed. He was beyond pissed. He was so angry that he could have burned down the old brown house with dingy white shutters and perpetually broken gutters on Hubert St. using nothing but the anger in his own mind, except that he wasn’t telepathic. But if he had been, he would have totally done it.
Because then he wouldn’t have to stay there for a week while his mom abandoned him to go nurse his stupid aunt back to health who nearly burned up in the fire she caused by passing out with a lit cigarette in her mouth for the third time in as many years and who was so perpetually helpless that there wasn’t a single week that went by without a panicked phone call about whatever man in her life had screwed her over this time or what mysterious new physical ailment she’d developed because she was forever cursed by the barrage of crap that life insisted upon raining down on her.
Jacob saw the pointlessness of it and he was only 13. Why his mother insisted on continuously running to the rescue of this woman who kept her constantly on edge he couldn’t tell you. And as if inviting him along was any consolation for having to constantly deal with this. Really? Like he would purposely choose to go deal with that?
So he was left to decide his punishment and he had to choose to spend the week at the awful house on Hubert street. The one that smelled like rotten beets and was always stifling hot because its owner didn’t believe in air conditioning. The one with more cobwebs on the high bookshelves and the corners of the walls than any haunted house advertised at Halloween time. The one with so many old newspapers stacked up against the walls that hallways were near impassable in some areas. The one where the only person angrier than him lived.
As he stared out the window at the increasingly rural landscape he found himself sending out waves of hatred to everything. He wasn’t discriminatory in his rage, he hated it all. He hated that broken fence lining the horse farm where he’d never once seen a horse running in the field. He hated the fog sprawling out across the sky and he hated the sky for picking today to start dumping rain on everything in sight. He hated that pothole that made his mom curse every single time she ran over it and which had been there for as many years as he could remember. He hated his mom more for not remembering that it was there.
And when they finally pulled up to the house he hated it more than he’d ever hated it before. He hated the dead brown leaves under the maple tree which were slowly deteriorating into mush. He hated the wheel-less garbage can in the driveway which his mom would make him drag back to its spot next to the garage. He hated the creepy one-eyed cat who looked at him as if it were plotting new and more devious ways to end his life whenever it glanced at him. And he really hated the old man standing in the doorway with bushy sideburns, an abnormally large mustache and spittle perpetually resting in the corners of his mouth.
“Hey dad,” his mom said as she stepped up the creaky wooden steps carrying his bag, “I’m sorry I have to drop him and run but-“
“No, no- I know how it is. Your sister’s in distress, don’t worry about me- it’s not like I’m doing you a favor by feeding and caring for your son. I don’t need you to pretend to visit before you jet off.”
“No- don’t apologize. You have to go, you have to go- I understand. Jacob and I will just sit down and wait for you to return. We’ll sit right here on this porch watching for your car to pull back up like a dog who’s sole purpose in existence is to please his master, that’s what we’ll do.”
Jacob made it a point to roll his eyes using his whole body so as to make the gesture impossible for anyone to miss. His mom just smiled at her father, gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek and whispered something Jacob couldn’t hear in his ear. For his part, grandpa made a gruff “humph” sound with his exhale.
“I will be back as soon as I can,” his mom said, leaning to bestow a kiss on his cheek. Jacob shied away from her, looking out over the porch. She ignored this gesture and grabbed him for a hug. Jacob stood there, arms limp at his sides, body stiff and unrelenting. His mom just squeezed harder, whispered an “I love you” into his ear, pecked him on the cheek and let go, dashing for the car with a wave back at them.
Jacob and his grandfather stood there on the porch, watching her wave as she drove off, looking very much like the dejected dogs his grandfather had compared them to. And mixed in with the hatred Jacob felt a ping of something else, something he wouldn’t understand until much later in life.
“Well, lets not stand here gathering moss,” his grandfather said turning to open the door inside. “Let’s feed you something, you must be starving after the drive. I made you your favorite hot dogs.”
Jacob went in through the proffered opening, mumbling under his breath. His grandfather somehow managed to make the soggiest, most pathetic and grandfatherly hot dogs on the planet but Jacob had given up on telling him this as every time he’d attempted to tell his grandfather that hotdogs hadn’t been his favorite food since he was five the old man’s memory had failed him.
The old man watched his grandson walking down the hallway, shrugging his huge book bag further up on his back and mumbling and smiled.